OVER the last 16 years it has suited the SNP leadership and its publicly-funded cabal of spin doctors to keep the focus of political discourse in Scotland on stirring grievance with the UK Government and promoting Scottish independence, hoping to distract from the SNP’s many shortcomings in government. The spin machine accepted no fault on the part of the Scottish Government, and more often than not sought to claim Westminster was somehow to blame.

Yet maintaining the pretence of SNP competence has come at a huge cost to Scotland in terms of undermining the critical processes of good governance. The Scottish Parliament has at times been treated with utter contempt by SNP ministers. Previous First Minister Nicola Sturgeon managed at times to turn FMQs into little more than pantomime as she disdainfully avoided answering questions properly. Equally, critical Scottish Parliament Committee inquiries were undermined, with for example John Swinney prevaricating over releasing requested material, and Nicola Sturgeon finding she could not remember critical but inconvenient events, despite previously priding herself on always being on top of the detail.

The latest wrangle over possible deleted Covid-related WhatsApp messages looks set to overshadow all else (“Sturgeon has plenty of questions to answer on ‘missing’ messages”, Brian Wilson, The Herald, October 31). In particular, both the previous and current First Ministers gave assurances that all relevant messages, including WhatsApp, would be provided to the Covid inquiries, with no qualification whatsoever about how many such messages had already been or would be deleted. If the impression given to the UK inquiry that a large number have been deleted proves correct then these assurances would appear to have been knowingly misleading.

Yesterday, when questioned further on these issues, Humza Yousaf gave a baffling response, seemingly justifying deletions on the basis of his Government’s policy of removing all such messages after 30 days, whilst claiming in conflict that he had retained all of his.

Anyone curious as to why the 30-day deletion rule was in place might wonder if it was because using WhatsApp for communications in this way was viewed as a means of getting round awkward FoI questions that might otherwise reveal too much about SNP ministers’ thinking.

Even if the SNP and Greens majority in the Scottish Parliament is used to defend the indefensible, not simply the misleading of Parliament but also treating it with disrespect, surely the Scottish public will refuse to be fobbed off again with another blatant abuse of power. There must be an investigation into whether there have been breaches of the Ministerial Code.

Keith Howell, West Linton.

• THE latest SNP row involves the apparent deletion of WhatsApp messages relating to the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic. Whilst few in Scotland will be surprised by this, it will occur to many that this may be a calculated trade-off. The senior figures who initiated this may have weighed up the potential penalties and decided that deleting messages carries a lesser penalty than the fall-out from releasing them. They may well be right.

This is yet another cynical manipulation by the SNP. Scots, including the bereaved families at the centre of the ongoing public inquiry, deserve and must get full disclosure of all communications relating to the pandemic. The SNP promised us the most transparent and accountable government ever. It must now live up to that promise.

Jon Herd, Kilmarnock.

Read more: Nicola Sturgeon has questions to answer over Whats App messages 

Make them read them all

UNLIKE Jason Leitch I am lazy and I do not delete emails on a regular basis. I now appear to have 28,267 unread emails in my mailbox. If someone wants to read all these emails they are welcome to do so, but if it takes a minute to read each email that will take about one month to complete the exercise, and that is just the unread emails.

My late father clearly handled his email account in a similar manner to that of Professor Leitch. When I took over his account there were about 10 emails in the inbox. Four years later there are 488 unread emails in the mailbox, and that is after assiduously deleting emails which I know are of no importance.

I hope that What’sApp have copies of all of the messages received by Jason Leitch and whoever criticises him in deleting these messages is forced to read each one of them. It will certainly keep them out of mischief for some time.

Sandy Gemmill, Edinburgh.

What does Ash Regan stand for?

I HAVE long been intrigued by Ash Regan ("Turncoat Regan refuses calls for by-election after Alba defection", The Herald, October 31). Or rather, I’ve been intrigued trying to work out what she stands for. She was elected to parliament on a manifesto that included gender reform, only to storm out in protest when the parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of this very measure.

Whilst I can understand it was a personal vote too far for her, what about the constituents she claimed to represent and who voted for that manifesto? She will no doubt assert (as she has done recently) that these same constituents were focused solely on independence. But how does that square with her previous comment that “independence cannot be a carrot deployed only to attract voters during election times”?

Perhaps she should have followed Lisa Cameron’s even more bizarre rebellion by joining the Conservatives with their new vote-winning strategy of a permanently revolving leadership. She would have probably been at home sitting beside their Scottish leader at Holyrood where she could ask the same question that she will now no doubt be asking the leader of Alba, namely: “Can you tell me where we are headed so that I can tell the press this is what my constituents voted for?”

Robert Menzies, Falkirk.

Read more: The SNP Covid cabal must not be allowed to escape scrutiny

We should still doubt Labour

SO the Scottish Greens would “consider a unionist party deal” ("Greens may consider unionist party deal, hints Slater", The Herald October 30). But not one of the unionist parties, going back to the LibDems in 2007, would ever do a deal with a pro-independence party (though the LibDems were happy to call for an EU referendum and to coalesce with a largely EU-separatist Tory party).

Mark McGeoghegan ("Finally, it feels like a page is turning in Scottish politics", The Herald, October 30) comments on the broad range of serious challenges facing the UK and Scotland, on the same day as a report by the Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance states that “public services are on a doom loop of decline” under the Tories, with the conclusion that things will not improve under Labour because of Sir Keir Starmer's budgetary constraints. Mr McGeoghegan welcomes the notion that a page is turning in Scottish politics, with Labour as the beneficiary (though Rutherglen was hardly the Labour “triumph” as is mooted), but it will find a hard road in front of it.

The Scottish media commentariat may come to regret their gung-ho promotion of Labour, as on many responsibilities at present, Scotland outperforms Tory England and Labour Wales. Labour would form a UK government with a big majority, then a presumed Labour/Tory/Lib Dem coalition in Scotland. Labour has given the impression it would perform better on every government responsibility, but its policy platform, while big on outcomes, is silent on the means.

Failure by Labour in London or Holyrood can only lead to “another page turning”, as Mr McGeoghegan entertainingly puts it. There is also much less public enthusiasm for Sir Keir Starmer or Anas Sarwar in leadership, as there was for Tony Blair, to help smooth over the blips.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

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Please, listen to NHS staff

IMAGINE feeling so ill or being so injured that you go to A&E for treatment. Now imagine having to spend more than 24 hours in A&E. I’ll be honest and say I just can’t imagine what that must feel like. Unfortunately many Scots don’t need to imagine it, they’ve experienced it. In the first six months of 2019 the number who had spent more than 24 hours in A&E was 15. Last year for the same period, this figure had increased to almost 4,000, a 250-fold increase.

While Health Secretary Michael Matheson has tinkered around the edges pledging additional funding to the ambulance service, hospital doctors are warning that this is not meaningful. We need more available beds on wards and more facilities to enable people to return home with a support package in place quicker.

Throwing money at a problem does not solve it. Listening to those who work in the health care service might help. If only the SNP would realise that. It could make those attending A&E a whole lot more bearable.

Jane Lax, Aberlour.